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Sauce Gardner On Maturing In Year 2 And How Aaron Rodgers Helped Him Get Rid Of A Coverage Tell

Cornerback Sauce Gardner put together a sensational rookie season with the New York Jets, earning Rookie Defensive Player of the Year honors after posting a season with 75 tackles, two interceptions, and an incredible 20 passes defensed — with fellow Jets rookie Garrett Wilson winning the award on the offensive side. With those two young stars at premium positions, the Jets went out and traded for Aaron Rodgers to help expedite their leap into being a contender in the AFC.

Gardner quickly made friends with his new superstar quarterback, going to a Knicks game with Rodgers after the trade was finalized and making sure to try and soak in as much knowledge as he can from the four-time MVP for however long he’s in New York. That has already paid dividends for Gardner, who explained to us how Rodgers was able to let him know about a coverage tell he had that tipped whether the Jets were in zone or man. He also says Rodgers helped him embrace a more team-focused mindset in camp, looking at it less as a competition to win every time and more as a chance for he and Wilson to help each other refine their games.

Gardner will hope to put those new lessons on display against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, as the Jets get their opener on Monday Night Football in a game that figures to be a measuring stick for how close they are to the AFC East’s top team. On Monday, Gardner spoke with Uproxx Sports on behalf of Buffalo Wild Wings, where his Sauce Sauce (sweet, spicy BBQ) is back on the menu for football season, about camp, Rodgers’ early influence on his game, battles with Wilson, turning deflections into more interceptions, the motivation he gets from Darrelle Revis, and Sauce’s favorite sauces.

How has camp gone and how are you feeling as y’all get ready for Week 1 now that the preseason is out of the way?

Camp has been great. You know, the competition was there — offense, defense, special teams. Brotherhood, the team bonding has been great. The biggest thing is I’m just blessed to be healthy and just have a healthy camp. Just be able to just look forward to this upcoming season and the game versus the Bills on September 11.

You mentioned the competition in camp, which for you a lot of that is going up against Garrett Wilson. What are the ways you two are able to push each other and how does going up against a guy like that make you better when he’s in your own building?

I would probably say if I beat him, if he beat me, just being able to be more mature about it now. It’s Year 2, so now it’s more so, ‘Hey, what did you see here?’ Garrett asked me how did I know he’s running a certain route. I tell him basically it’s a stem, or it’s his pad level. And me asking him, ‘Hey, how did you know I was gonna do this? How you know I was gonna jump jam? How you know I was gonna do this?’ And me being able to give him some pointers. That’s one thing I learned from Aaron when Aaron first got here, he said like we need to just be able to help each other out. I never really thought about it like that. I always — I’m not gonna necessarily say I was selfish — but I just thought me winning is all that mattered, especially when you in camp. Just being able to take that professional approach to be able to help my teammates and them help me, you know, that’s been great.

Yeah, obviously we’ve been able to see that you and Aaron have been able to become pretty close. But what do you learn from him on the field about what elite quarterbacks are trying to do and what they’re seeing from you and how they can try to take advantage of when you tip things?

He done gave me some beats on myself as far as when he know I’m playing man versus when I’m playing zone. And you know, that’s one of those things that I cleaned up real fast. Basically he said my pad level was how he would know. If I’m looking at him or not looking at my man, so little stuff like that he helped me with. It might sound like somethin’ little but that’s huge because if quarterback gets a beat that’s all it takes for them know what defense we’re playin. And you know, it’s definitely embarrassing if to beat or the tell is on the corner.

What were your biggest lessons from your rookie year? You had a great year but what were the things you were on the pull watching your own film and take in the summer and say these are the points that I’m focusing on in building off of that?

The main thing I’ll say is takeaways. I just want to get the ball more, get more interceptions. Cause I had a lot of opportunities to get into interceptions but I ain’t make the most out of all of them. You know, a lot of em was pass breakups. And now it’s Year 2, it’s time to turn those into interceptions.

Definitely. You were there for Hall of Fame Game weekend and you got to see Darrelle Revis go in the Hall of Fame. Have you gotten a chance to talk with him and is there anything you’ve been able to pull from from him and a Jets legend like that?

Yeah I talked to Rev. First of all, it’s just motivation being able to play for a team with a cornerback who went into the Hall of Fame. That’s motivation because that’s something I want to do. And probably one of the biggest pointers he gave me is don’t make the moment too big. It’s just great, especially going into a game, 9/11, everybody watching but you know it’s one of those things don’t make the moment too big. You know, I play football. That’s all I’m basically doing it’s just on Monday night.

You’ve got this Buffalo Wild Wings partnership and you got to go undercover as a waiter this year. What was that like getting to have some fun with working with them for a second straight year?

Man, it was great. It was something I kind of envisioned myself doing at some point in my life, cause I seen other professional athletes do it. It was just great. That’s one thing that I like about being able to be with Buffalo Wild Wings, it’s just so fun and creative. The ideas that I could come up with, the ideas that they can come up with and us just being able to bounce ideas off of each other, it’s great. One of my biggest moments out of going undercover and being a waiter for B-Dubs, I’ll probably say that I dumped the whole bottle of my sauce on someone else’s wings. I think it was like lemon pepper, it was a different flavor that he had and I just took my sauce and just dumped it all over his plate. You know he didn’t really take it the wrong way. You know he had fun with it and I had fun as well. Not too many people caught on to who I was when I was undercover which is good thing but it wasn’t good enough because I was almost 100 percent sure that nobody was gonna know who I was, but I think like one or two families had a feeling of who I was — which is cool but all in all it was a great experience.

I know your Sauce Sauce is coming back but what are your top three wing sauces?

You talkin’ about besides Sauce Sauce?

Yeah, besides Sauce sauce, cause I’m sure that’s at the top.

I’ll probably say Hot BBQ, which is coming back as well. Lemon Pepper, and Sweet BBQ. In that order. Wait, no, Hot BBQ, Sweet BBQ, then Lemon Pepper.